Just a quick update

I haven't been feeling super great the last couple days, so a quick update this week.

I'm participating in #CampNaNoWriMo this month, and so far it's going really well! I am having a ball with my project. I've been spending mornings writing and afternoons editing another project, so things are just humming along :)

Here's a pic I shared yesterday:

What are you working on this week?


It's kind-of a big deal

Happy to be done!
Happy Monday, all!
I hope my US friends had a great 4th of July. And did y'all see that Women's World Cup Final? Incredible!

I completed my first half-marathon on Saturday. Crazy, right? Yeah I think so too. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up, and then for a couple days before (and for the last 3 miles of the race hah) I was like, "why did I think this was a good idea??" And then I finished, and the excitement and runner's high said, "this is why this was a good idea."

I find that writing is similar. I often get to a point halfway through a project and think, "why am I doing this? Why did I think this idea was worth all this work?" but then when it's finished and I finally get to show it to other people I am reminded why I do this. I do it because it's hard. Because it allows me to connect with people I might not otherwise. Because being able to say "I published a book" or two, or three, is a BIG DEAL.

I ran a half marathon. I wasn't the fastest by any stretch, but I did it. I put in the work, the sweat, the blisters, and I did it. It's a BIG DEAL.

What are you working on right now that is a BIG DEAL in your life?

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July #IWSG - a revisit to my Challenge from last week

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. It's a day for lovely people to bop around and support one another through this crazy thing we call 'being writers'. If you consider yourself to be a writer I highly suggest joining :) 

I am a co-host this month, along with Charity, SA, Tamara, Allison, and Tanya. And of course, Alex! Check them all out!

In my other professional life we talk about growth through provision of both Challenge and Support, so today I'm offering my fellow writers a dose of both.

June was an emotional month for social justice and civil rights in the USA. In just two weeks we had the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, subsequent burnings of other black churches (7 as of this writing), and the SCOTUS's decisions to maintain Obamacare and legalize same sex marriage in all 50 states. Issues of freedom, justice and safety have been on everyone's minds. We have celebrated and mourned. On the 26th President Obama gave a celebratory speech in the morning, and sang an emotional (and ever so slightly off-key :) ) Amazing Grace in the afternoon. The US has come a long way toward equality, and we have so much further to go.

Last week I challenged my writing friends to write more diversity into our books, and today on IWSG day I want to re-issue that challenge. America reads. More and more we are seeing our books turned into movies and television shows. If we as writers commit to writing more diversity of all kinds into our literature, think of how many minds we can influence!

I challenge you all to commit to write: people of all races/ethnicities as main characters, as lovers, as friends; LGBT people as positive, functional, happy, normal people; and women as powerful agents of their own lives. If all of us writers (including us white writers.. *ahem*) look at our stories and are intentional about not only having white male protagonists, bad guys who are people of color, damsels in distress, we can show our readers what the world could look like. What the world should look like. What the world does look like.

Writers have always been subversive and political in our own ways. I'm challenging you all to join me in this particular subversion. Are you in? How can I support you?

Click here to read my original, more lengthy post about the AME shooting, which contains the initial challenge and more detailed reflection.


Reflections on the #AMEshooting and an author's call to action

On Thursday, I was shocked (or not shocked? Which is worse..) and saddened to hear about the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Sunday's service at the
AME Church - from npr.org
On Friday and Saturday I read others' reactions and tried to process my own emotions about the incident. I thought about our history of race issues, gun control, perceptions of mental illness. I answered questions on FB about 'the other crazy white guy who shot people in Colorado' and grieved that white men who shoot people are 'mentally ill' and taken alive to jail, while poc who shoot people (or are even suspected of it!) are 'terrorists' who often never make it to jail or a trial. I cried as black friends expressed fear for the future of their children. Again.

On Sunday and Monday I once again found myself struggling with what I can do as a white ally to help stop the violence against people of color in our country. When I worked at universities, the answer to that question was 'easy', even if execution wasn't always - talk to white students about our privileges and support students of color in whatever way I could. Now that I work from home, that answer is more difficult. I felt hopeless because my sphere of influence has shrunk. After all I go hours at a time without speaking to another person.

I came up from my pit of white guilt this morning knowing that I am not helpless. As a white author what I can do to help effect change is to write diversity into my books. Think about it: my book has entered hundreds of homes, further books that I write will reach hundreds, maybe thousands more. My writing mostly falls into the category of Young Adult. If I write diversity into my books and young folks read them, that is one more voice of equality speaking to the next generation.

So I want to talk to my white people for a second.

In a lot of cases I think we take the 'write what you know' advice too much to heart. What we know is white culture. As white people, we rely on people of color to talk about 'black people things' or 'hispanic things', or whatever. As white people we don't want to make a misstep and say something bad or accidentally racist, so it's better to just leave the talking about non-white people to non-white people. Right? Wrong.

I am issuing a challenge to my fellow white writers. Look at your fiction through a lens of social justice and equality. I've written about this before when I was at an LGBT conference, but let's expand upon it. I want us all to be honest with ourselves while considering these questions (I'm including myself in this):

  • How can you, as white person, write diversity into your fiction?
  • How do stereotypes and prejudices inform your writing? (and they do, for all of us) I'm not just talking archetypes here - really look at it. Are the good guys white and the bad guys black? All the people of color uneducated or 'urban'? All the children of color from broken homes? These are tropes we see constantly in popular fiction.
  • Is white'ness a necessary component of all your characters' story arcs in your current WIP? Is there someone who could be non-white, and is it possible that it might enhance their character development?
  • As writers we are not just creative people. We are also researchers. When was the last time you learned about a culture outside your own for a piece? When was the last time you went to a place where people of color worship? A cultural celebration? The 'other' side of town? Interviewed a non-white person to hear their story?
  • What about the books you read? Do they have multicultural protagonists? Non-white authors? Do you know about We Need Diverse Books? or the Unconventional Librarian?
  • Have you ever, in the course of your creative development, written a non-white protagonist? Are you uncomfortable with the thought of writing one? Why? No really, why?
I'm asking my literary friends to: consider the questions above and commit to writing more diversity into our works of fiction. Comment below and let me know your thoughts and how you are committing to expand the worlds you create.

I'm not saying we should be striving to speak for people of color, because we shouldn't (and that's a whole other blog post). I'm asking all of us to stretch our writing to include people who don't look like us, and to let them be real, not just the asian lady in the grocery store, or hispanic woman praying a rosary who don't even get names because they are so unimportant. When we show people of color as being well-rounded, intelligent, non-violent agents of their own destinies we give our readers a more truthful portrayal of reality.

What an impact we will have if we all focus on bringing more diversity to our fiction! If each of my literary friends writes with diversity in mind we will reach thousands of people. We quiet, introverted people who sit alone in rooms with keyboards, can aid the revolution. It may not be fast, but it will be potent, and the impact will last for as long as people read our words.

In fiction we create worlds - let's make those worlds better than the one we live in, and maybe someday reality will catch up.


Just a couple quick notes this week!

So we are actually out backpacking right now, but I realized Sunday morning that I hadn't written my post for this week yet! Oops.

This week I've been attending LitFest at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, and it has been fabulous.  You all should come next year! We have a lovely guest bedroom ;) Since I don't have much time, I figured I'd just share a couple things that I've learned and experienced, so others can learn them as well:

  • A panel of agents ALL said that they don't care what kind of online platform an author has. They only care about the work, and will worry about platform later. This flies in the face of a lot of things I have read, and I've been chewing on it for several days.
  • Some agents are, indeed, really intimidating. Others are super sweet.
  • Authors are some of the best people out there. I have found my flock. I haven't felt so 'with my people' since summer camp.
  • The Jesus story fits almost perfectly into the Three Act Structure that Aristotle wrote about. (draw your own conclusions from that)
  • One of the women who taught a writing session did so one hour after finding out her father had passed away. She stole wine from the party downstairs and turned the session into a celebration of her father, who was known as a great teacher. I am glad that kind of beautiful act happens in our world.
  • Stories are everywhere if we know where to look for them. Occasionally getting the full story will require getting out of our introvert caves, but it's so worth it.
  • On a related note, I think I really do want to try some freelancing. Eek.
  • A reminder: write the damn words. You can edit later. If you realize you need to edit something, make a note and write the rest of the piece as though you've already changed it. Will save your mind now, and time later.
  • Imposter syndrome: We all have it. Even people whose books have made NY Times bestseller lists.
  • It is possible to run 10 miles in the morning and sit through class all afternoon. But... you probably want some caffeine to do that.
Ok I have to go! I will check in with the blogging world this week, I promise!


Yeah.. I'm on #Instagram..

(Armageddon is still on sale!)

So I don't have anything to tell you about pirates this week, because my in-laws were in town and I haven't read even a page of anything. But! I have been learning how to use Instagram.

I still kinda feel like this about it:
A photo posted by AJ Lauer (@ayjaylauer) on

But I'm enjoying sharing pictures like this, so it might not be so bad:

A photo posted by AJ Lauer (@ayjaylauer) on

If you use Instagram, come find me and we'll hang out :)